This guide explains how to set up computer workstations to suit individual needs and the type of work performed at the workstation.

The guide describes the basic features of a standard computer workstation. It can be used when selecting, purchasing and setting up appropriate furniture and equipment for computer based work. Having appropriate furniture and equipment allows the individual to improve the set up at their workstation, increase their comfort and reduce potential injury. It is strongly recommended that any new equipment or furniture be trialled with users prior to purchase.

How we sit at computer workstations

There is growing evidence that there needs to be flexibility in the way we sit at computer workstations.

While there is not one correct way to sit at a workstation, seating should support postures that can be changed frequently within a comfortable range throughout the day. It should accommodate the:

  • Work being done
  • Visual demands
  • Workers’ individual differences.

This will reduce fatigue and strain on the neck, shoulders, back and legs. All users should trial different positions to work out the best set up for themselves.

An accepted and well supported seated position means:

  • Sitting with the body close to the desk
  • The head and neck are in a forward facing and midline position (i.e no backward arching of the neck or forward extension of the chin)
  • The shoulders are relaxed and symmetrical and elbows slightly closer to the side of the body
  • Using the preferred keying posture, depending on the style of keying used (o/e traditional style or with forearm support)
  • The back is supported by the chair backrest. The curved lower part of the backrest should fit in to the lower back or the lumbar curve
  • Having an open angle of 100-120 degrees (slightly more than a right angle) at the hip. This can be achieved by adjusting the seat pan tilt and the backrest
  • Having knees at a height lower or level with the hips
  • Ensuring a gap of 2-3 finger widths between the front of the chair and the back of the knees
  • Having feet flat on the floor or footrest.

Sit / Stand Workstations

Sit / stand workstations can be highly beneficial to your health, if used correctly. One common mistake made with sit / stand workstations is that users stand for the majority of their day in lieu of sitting, which can be just as detrimental to your health as sitting all day as it can lead to issues such as deep vein thrombosis or a higher risk of heart disease.

The key to safely using a sit / stand workstation is to remember to "move more and sit less." Changing postures throughout the day from sitting to standing and vice versa, and taking regular breaks from your workstation is the best approach to take when using a sit /stand workstation.

The OHS Alert Sit-stand advice dubious, move more message missing and article Overselling Sit-Stand Desks: New Coverage of Workplace Sitting Guidelines are interesting documents to read if considering the purchase of a sit / stand workstation in your school.

Remember, movement matters!